‘MAD DOG’ MARVIN

‘Mad Dog’ Marvin, not a nickname usually associated with Oscar-winner Lee Marvin, but he did once utilize it in a sketch on a Bob Hope Special costarring Barbara Eden. The special is either from 1968 or 1970, not quite sure. Either way, he was already well established in the media but was not above such silly and broadly played doings as he had on occasion in such films as Donovan’s Reef (1963) and Cat Ballou (1965). 
  As with many of Hope’s sketches, they’re extremely dated in the humor but the phone is in watching big names stars deliver the goods, and Marvin delivers in spades. Of course, Barbara Eden is sexy and cute but it’s Marvin who steals the show, especially with his entrance. The effect he has on Hope is hilarious.

Screen grab of Lee Marvin’s entrance as ‘Mad Dog’ Marvin on the Bob Hope Special of the 1960s.



Other celebrities were quite willing to make fun of their image, such as Paul Simon dressed like a turkey and singing “Still Crazy After All These Years” on a Thanksgiving episode of Saturday Night Live” back in the the 1970s. Then there’s the infamous bunny suit worn by John Wayne for Easter on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in.” 

The Easter Bunny on steroids, aka John Wayne on ‘Laugh-In.’



In researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was constantly surprised and impressed with the actor’s willingness to do anything and have fun doing it. It’s what made the work a labor of love. For example, when I discovered that because he enjoyed watching “The Flip Wilson Show,” he asked his agent Meyer Mishkin to get him a guest spot on the show and so he did. It was just before going on stage with the show that he got the surprise of a lifetime that I wrote about in the book. 
 When all is said and done, one must watch the sketch below to truly appreciate what I’ve been talking about. I can’t picture the such Marvin costars as John Wayne or Charles Bronson selling it like Marvin does. Oh, and the waiter in the sketch doing the bad Italian accent? Singer Robert Goulet!
Watch and enjoy at the link below….
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsVY7tXJiKI 

– Dwayne Epstein

 

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DECEMBER 2021 ON TCM

December 2021 on TCM is upon us and being a holiday month, there is a dearth of Lee Marvin or Le Marvin related films. However, as stated in my NY Times bestselling biography Lee Marvin Point Blank, there are some goodies to watch out for throughout the month for us Lee Marvin fans. All times below are Pacific Standard time…

To Have and Have Not: (1944) Thursday, December 2nd, 8:45 pm.

Lauren Bacall sparks Bogie’s fire in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT.


Sparks fly in Lauren Bacall’s film debut opposite rugged tough guy Humphrey Bogart. The plot to this romantic action thriller is secondary to the chemistry between the two leads who married a year after the film’s release. Author Ernest Hemingway didn’t care for it either, reportedly calling it, “To Heave and Heave Not.” None of which matters as Bogart portrays one of his classic anti-heroes, the kind Lee Marvin would often emulate later in his own career. Watch for yourself and picture Marvin doing the same. Walter Brennan commits grand larceny stealing every scene he’s in and the whole production is a classic example of the kind films the just don’t make any more.

A Bridge Too Far (1977): Sunday, December 5th, 11pm.

Members of the all-star cast in A BRIDGE TOO FAR.


An excellent adaptation of Cornelius Ryan’s book directed by Sir Richard Attenborough, this mammoth all-star production did not fair well at the box office in its depiction of the Allies in WWII failed attempt at Operation Market-Garden. It’s a shame really as it contains some memorable moments written by the great William Goldman and enacted by its international cast (Sean Connery, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Liv Ullman, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, James Caan, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman and many, many more!) as well as as a rousing score by John Addison. Well worth a look if you haven’t seen it. I saw thought in the theaters and understand its box office failure. No matter how well made, no one wants to see a film of how the Allies bungled a major offensive. One question remains, though: Why the hell wasn’t Lee Marvin in this??

They Were Expendable (1945): Tuesday, December 7th, 2:30 pm.

In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, TCM is airing this John Ford classic in which he pays homage to the Navy’s PT fleet. Ford is arguably one of the greatest directors of all time…hell, quite possibly THE greatest and this is one of his best non-western films. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne and Donna Reed head up the cast and show the significant sacrifice made in the Pacific campaign in The Philippines. It’s a terrific and haunting film that had one singular flaw. Because it was made five years before Lee Marvin started his film career, he sadly was not around to be in it. On the plus side he did work with Ford towards the end of the old man’s reign and the relationship is well-documented by yours truly. 

Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955): Wednesday, December 8th, 3:15 pm.

Jack Webb (left) and Lee Marvin (right) blow some hot jazz in Webb’s tribute to the Roaring 20s.


Director/star Jack Webb’s tribute to the early days of Jazz and the Roaring 20s is TCM’s only Lee Marvin offering this month but it’s a good one, in my humble opinion. Another all-star cast, and it’s a pretty eclectic one with Webb and as the title character, Janet Leigh as his girlfriend and the strange casting of Andy Devine as a tough cop and Edmond O’Brien as a brutal gangster. Along for the ride are the great Ella Fitzgerald and also Peggy Lee in an Oscar-nominated performance. Look quick for Jayne Mansfield as a cigarette girl. In Pete’s band are the likes of Martin Milner as a fresh punk drummer and Lee Marvin as a wizened veteran of ‘The Band Wars.’ Granted, the dialog is a little over ripe (Pete Kelly: I didn’t come here to hear a saxophone player who had a big breakfast!) and believability is rather stretched in some scenes but its still a fun ride. I was fortunate enough to interview Martin Milner about it who told me some great anecdotes that went into Lee Marvin Point Blank

Also of note for December 2021 on TCM:
Park Row (1952) Saturday, December 11th, 7pm. Writer/director Sam Fuller’s loving tribute to crusading journalism at the turn-of-the-century. Yes, THAT Sam Fuller.
Crime Wave (1954): Monday, December 13, 4:45 am. A nice little crime thriller toplining grumpy cop Sterling Hayden and recently paroled Gene Nelson. The real attraction are the henchmen which includes sadistic Ted DeCorsia, crazed Tim Carey and young frequent Marvin costar Charles Buchinsky (later Bronson).

Original poster for CRIME WAVE.


The Bridge on The River Kwai (1957): Sunday, December 25th, 5pm. Before The Dirty Dozen, before The Guns of Navarone, there was this epic David Lean production of WWII ‘men-on-a-mission’ classic. What better way to spend Christmas?

So, there you have it. December 2021 on TCM may be a wee bit short on Lee Marvin films but the holidays aside, there’s still some excellent viewing if you know what to look for. Besides, if you think December 2021 is worthy, January looks to be even better for Lee Marvin aficionados. Stay tuned and happy holidays!
– Dwayne Epstein

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BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH

Benedict Cumberbatch, the hotter than hot British-born actor known for playing everything from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange to Alan Turing, may seem an odd choice for this blog concerning all things Lee Marvin. However, a recent project of his makes him a very good choice indeed.  
   The film is called The Power of the Dog (2021), directed by Oscar-winner, Jane Campion and costars Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons opening in this country on December 1st. Internationally, it has already won several major film festivals awards, which makes it destined to be an Oscar contender next year. The Oscar contention is with good reason as Jane Campion is an extraordinary director and this is her first major film in many years. If you’ve ever seen the excellent The Piano (1993) then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  
   The premise of The Power of the Dog is another good reason for its Oscar buzz. In 1925 Montana (although filmed in New Zealand) rancher brothers Cumberbatch and Plemons encounter widow Dunst and her young son played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Dunst is courted by Plemons and they eventually marry. When Dunst and her son move in the sparks fly, but not necessarily in a good way. Apparently, macho Cumberbatch enjoys teasing and bullying Dunst’s son in front of his cowboy buddies, which builds to an apparently inevitable yet shocking conclusion.

Benedict Cumberbatch as he appears in THE POWER OF THE DOG.


   Two distinct aspect of the film makes it a worthy entry here. First, I don’t believe Cumberbatch as ever made a western, nor looked so grizzled on film. In doing so, it certainly puts him in Lee Marvin country. Matter of fact, it strengthens my earlier assertion about him playing Marvin in a possible biopic

Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance & Edmond O'Brien as Dutton Peabody.

Lee Marvin brandishes his quirt, a.k.a. Liberty’s whip, as Shinbone Star editor Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) dramatically awaits Valance’s next move.


    The second aspect has to do with something Lee Marvin had previously stated in his Playboy interview, which you can read here. When I wrote Lee Marvin Point Blank I decided to include an appendix of films Marvin could have made had he lived longer. The Power of the Dog can be added to the list. As one recent film critic perceptively observed, “Cumberbatch summons Lee Marvin’s brash magnetic voice in creating a cowboy who’s know-it-all yet deeply confused.”  
Based on the way Cumberbatch plays the character (not unlike Liberty Valance seen above), and looking as grizzled as a modern day Monte Walsh (1970), the case can be made for a Lee Marvin biopic….starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
– Dwayne Epstein

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